The boss of Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill mine says with a slowing economy, the use of workers on 457 visas may not be needed for the project.
Speaking at a suppliers briefing in Perth, Barry Fitzgerald backed away from the use of foreign workers.
Last year the Federal Government gave Hancock the ability to hire up to 1,700 foreign workers as part of an Enterprise Migration Act.
The move drew the ire of unions and some parts of the resources community, but the company said the agreement was necessary in order to get Roy Hill off the ground.
But now the company says with major projects coming off, the company is confident it will be able to source experiences workers locally, ABC reported.
"When we started this project some years ago, the market was a lot warmer and at that time we needed to be able to demonstrate that we had an opportunity to manage the risk of not being able to get experienced, capable resources. So we signed up and started the EMA process," Fitzgerald said.
"Since that time things have moved on. We are now confident that we will in fact secure the bulk of our workforce, or our contractors will, through the Australian labour market."
However, Fitzgerald was quick to point out that if the economy improved, 457s may still be needed.
"It still is a risk mitigation. If things pick up then we may well need it again."
Fitzgerald told the briefing more than 8000 employees will be required to build the Pilbara mine, as well as port and rail infrastructure.
"We want to award all of the contracts by the end of June. That will give us certainty," he said.
The West Australian reported the $10 billion mine could go ahead as early as October, a sign the project is close to securing the $7 billion needed for necessary debt funding
"We believe our funding is a matter of when, not if," Fitzgerald said.
Many see the Roy Hill mine as a potential saviour for struggling contractors with more than 1700 of them attending the briefings in Western Australia to discuss the opportunities the project offers.
"It's amazing how many friends I've gained in the past six to 12 months," Fitzgerald said.
Hancock has already awarded mining contractor NRW Holdings a $67 million contract to complete earthworks and piping at the mine, while Decmil has been awarded $71 million worth of contracts.